Palm Sunday just happened.
Churches throughout the world preached on Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a Donkey, and on the people laying down Palm branches and coats on his path as they honored him as a King.
In our church, the Pastor speaking mentioned that as Jesus was marching into the city from one direction, Pontius Pilate was marching into the city from another direction (Click Here for an Article on that).
I’d like to walk through that story here, and maybe reflect on what happened the day after Jesus walked into the city.
A Tale of Two Kings
The religious season was Passover.
Jewish people flocked to Jerusalem in droves to celebrate the release of Hebrew slaves from the land of Egypt through the power of God.
They remembered the plagues that Moses called down from heaven. They remembered the blood of a lamb that had to be put on doorposts in order to save them from the justice of God that was coming for the people in power who kept refusing to release the people of God.
And as they prepared themselves for these reflections, and in the midst of this Passover season, they saw something odd…
A man named Jesus was marching into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey. Rumors of Jesus got around – he healed the sick, cast out demons, knew the Torah well, and opinions on who he was were varied – was he a prophet, lunatic, agent of evil…or could he be their Messiah?
Their attention focused in on the Donkey that he was riding – this was prophesied to be something that the Messiah would do! And so, the Jewish crowds gathered in suspicious anticipation that this MAY be the King they had been praying for; the King who would free them from Oppression! They laid palm branches and their own cloaks before his feet as they thought…
“Maybe this is the Justice of God coming…Maybe we will be freed from our oppression…”
On the other end of the city, the most immediate source of that oppression marched in. Swords, spears, helmets, and shields were glistening in the sun as this ruler made his grand entry in a show of force and power to meet the possible threats of crime and uprising as these rebellious Hebrew people flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.
This ruler was feared, and some of the Hebrew people were seeking to overthrow his power. And yet, he marched into a city that was under his domain like a conquering war machine – demanding the people’s respect and allegiance.
The people gave Jesus the pomp and circumstance that Pilate desired.
The people chose to lay down their cloaks – their symbol of status, and protection from the elements – for a rebellious young teacher riding a farm animal.
The people wanted Jesus to overrule Pilate.
Their laying down of palm branches was an act of rebellion against the Empire of Rome!
So why did this crowd of people who shouted “Hosanna!” in an act of desire for deliverance…join the crowds of taunters to shout out “Crucify Him!” a few days later?
One King Knows Best
Jesus did not come to earth to overthrow earthly powers. He was not the great military leader that others expected him to be. He did not satiate their blood-thirsty palates in carrying out God’s justice on Pontius Pilate and Rome itself.
He was a leader of a movement who did not resist arrest.
He turned the other cheek, and some viewed him as weak because of it.
He was a leader on a donkey with no army behind him.
They rejected Jesus because he wasn’t the King that they wanted.
Jesus was surely a Rebel, but he rebelled against Empire by demanding total allegiance to himself DESPITE earthly rulers; He didn’t need to overthrow an earthly ruler to demand complete allegiance, and have complete power. And Mark’s Gospel makes it clear that he came to not only turn earthly powers on their heads but to bind the source of the powers of evil themselves – demons and Satan (Mark 3:22-27).
And so, Jesus really was the Messiah riding in on a Donkey – declaring that he was there to overthrow power…But his plans were longer lasting than what others expected.
Questions for Reflections:
- Would we consider Jesus to be a weak leader to face today’s problems?
- When there is an injustice, how do we normally expect justice to be carried out?
- How is this similar and different from the ways of Jesus?
- Did my line about Jesus demanding COMPLETE allegiance rub you the wrong way?
- What would this mean politically? What would this mean personally?
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